Writer Wednesday ~ Toni de Palma

Writer Wednesday ~ Toni de Palma

Today I have the lovely and talented Toni de Palma on my blog, and we’re celebrating her upcoming release, The Devil’s Triangle, which goes live on February 15, 2013. So without further ado, let’s jump into the interview, shall we?

CA: What made you decide to write a novel?
TdP: Cooper, my main character, was too hard to ignore. He’s a teenage boy with a heart of gold, who isn’t bad on the eyes either. Cooper struggles with doing the right thing and his inner bad boy.

CA: Why paranormal?
TdP: Cooper not only has to deal with his inner Devil, but the real Lucifer too.

CA: How many books/short stories do you have planned for this series?
TdP: Three. I’m putting the finishing touches on the second book, The Devil’s Temptation, now.

CA: Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
TdP: That’s tough. I love Paris, but I also love the Italian island of Ischia where my dad is from. A little bungalow in Key West isn’t a bad idea either.

CA: Name 3 simple joys in your life.
TdP: According to my husband, I am anything but simple, but I’ll try. I love my bike, my dog and family dinners.

CA: If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead or fictional, who would it be and where would you go to eat?
TdP: I feel like I did this this past summer when my husband, son and I had many wonderful dinners in Italy.

CA: If you could give just one piece of advice to a writer starting out, what would it be?
TdP: Find a wonderfully supportive writers group that will also keep you accountable. I would be nowhere without my group.

CA: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a Day Job?
TdP: I teach creative writing at a local college and am planning a writers retreat in Ischia, Italy. You can find out more about the retreat at www.tonidepalma.com

CA: Ooh, a writer’s retreat in Italy! I’ll have to save for it, that sounds divine! And at least, when you’re teaching creative writing, you are also immersing yourself in writing. That’s soo cool!  Name one thing your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
TdP: Don’t tell anyone, but my grammar stinks. Thank goodness for editors!

CA: Oh, I know! I LOVE my editors. They are the BEST people in the world! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
TdP: Nope, I think that’s it. Thanks!

CA: Thank YOU, Toni, for coming to Writer Wednesday!

The Cover:

The Blurb:

When 17 year old Cooper dies in an attempt to burn down his school, he finds himself in the afterlife. Lucy, the Devil’s sister who has crossed party lines, decides to give Cooper another shot at heaven. The deal? Cooper returns to Earth and has to find a girl named Grace. The rest is up to him.

     While Cooper figures out his mission, he’s thrown into the life he’s always wanted. Great parents, a spot on the Varsity football team and a real future are all within reach. But what he really wants is Grace, a feisty girl with an abusive boyfriend who can pound Cooper into pulp if he doesn’t watch out.

     While Lucy plays demonic-puppeteer, clues to an unknown past between Cooper and Grace start to unravel. Cooper discovers that what’s keeping him and Grace apart is far more sinister than anything this bad boy could have ever imagined.

Where to Find Toni:

Goodreads book page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13610688-devil-s-triangle

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/465309.Toni_De_Palma

Website: http://tonidepalma.com/

Blog: http://writersbytheshore.blogspot.com/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/WriterToniDePalma?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ToniDePalma1


Thanks for stopping by – please give Toni some comment love!

Snarking on Winter Whites

Snarking on Winter Whites

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.

Today I’ve got three white wines. Yes, despite the fact that I am a red wine whore fan, at times the food, the day, the palate cry out for a white wine. I’m not entirely sure when, but my husband makes sure to point out all the signs. Like, he opens a bottle of white wine and pours it for dinner. That’s usually a really good sign that it’s time for a white wine. So, without further ado, here are the three that have managed to sneak onto my dinner table in the past couple of weeks.

It’s A HeadSnapper Pinot Grigio 2011 D.O.C. Trentino, Product of Italy Alcohol 12.5% by Volume,  $9.99 at Vons

On the Label: “When a wine is so memorable that it makes you do a double take, you know “It’s a HeadSnapper.”

“Zesty and floral, our Pinot Grigio has delicate notes of honeysuckle and figs which finish with a crisp, soft note. Enjoy its refreshing finish with wood-fired quatro pizza or simply as an aperitif.


My Take: In my opinion, people in the wine industry should not try to become standup comics. Neither should they try to be “cute” with their labels. Honestly, it took me several years after seeing my first “HeadSnapper” label to actually get up the nerve to buy one.

On the one hand, the subliminal message of the label could be, “hey, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and neither should you” – but it could also be saying “we’re a really bad wine disguising ourselves with a funny label”.  I finally got up the nerve, in spite of the label, to give it a whirl.

I liked it. Crisp, refreshing, just the way a Pinot Grigio should taste. I didn’t taste any figs or honeysuckle, but it was a nice, clean wine that was in no way offensive.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable Plus ~ Yeah, technically that’s not a rating, but it didn’t quite elevate itself up to Very Drinkable so I had to come up with something else. Drinkable Plus seems to work for now.

Toad Hollow 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay Francine’s Selection, Mendocino County Alcohol 13.9% by Volume, under $10 at Vons.

On the Label: “2010 Unoaked Chardonnay. Clean, crisp and full flavored with hints of mango and melon and a rich, creamy mouth feel. Pair with herbed chicken, braised pork, grilled shellfish, sushi. Also great with goat cheese and gouda. A treat for the senses!

“Seriously crafted from three Mendocino County vineyards that produce clean, bright flavors in Chardonnay.  Whole cluster picked and pressed into tanks, racked and chilled to 52 degrees F. Slow fermentation process to retain fruity characteristics. Absolutely no oak!”

My Take: Okay, okay, no oak. I get it. Though why they would brag about leaving out an important (to me) part of wooing the chardonnay grapes is totally beside me. Though I do understand there are fanatic Chardonnay drinkers out there who actually prefer the stainless steel taste in their Chardonnay and in fact, am friends with more than a few, I do believe this is just a fad and will fade with time. My fondest hope is that there will be a middle ground – not the huge buttery, oaky Chardonnays of the 1980s (which was a fad in itself), but something milder, and without the metallic taste so often prevalent in the unoaked Chardonnays.

My Rating: ~ Thiscloseto Very Drinkable ~ Yes. Despite my rant above, this is close to being a Very Drinkable wine. Not too metallic (but that does creep in a tiny bit to my personal palate) but drinkable. Despite the cutesy label  (with Mr. Toad, in waistcoat and walking stick, lifting a glass to the sky), too – I guess after the HeadSnapper label, this one was mild in comparison. At any rate, all you Unoaked fans will appreciate this one.

Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2011 The Earth Friendly Winery™ Pioneers in sustainability; Established in 1968. 14% less carbon emissions. Alcohol 13% by Volume. Under $10 at Vons

On the Label: “Renewal. With each new vintage, I recall why I enjoy making wine. Starting fresh each spring energizes me. My sense of personal renewal shows in our popular Chardonnay. This is a wine with a medium body, full of easy-to-drink flavors of apple, pear and tropical fruits. So when the day is done, I like to relax and refresh with good friends. Our Chardonnay is always invited. Perfect with most fish dishes and white meats like chicken or pork.” Dennis Martin, Winemaker

“Fetzer now uses lighter glass bottles, runs the winery from mostly green energy, recycles, the list goes on…enhancing our heritage of sustainability.”

My Take: There is so much wrong with that back label that I’m stumped as to where to start. I’m not sure, for instance, that I want to know what part of Dennis’ sense of personal renewal shows in the wine. Is it the sweat of work well done? *shudder* And how about where he “invites” his friend, Chardonnay, to relax with him – and then CONSUMES said friend? It’s just – disturbing. But for me, the icing on the cake is their trumpeting of their “green” practices. If you have to shout about it on the label…*shakes head*. I suppose it is a good thing that I make a practice of NEVER reading the back label before I buy.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ When all is said and done, Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay has been a favorite of mine for over 20 years. They’ve kept the price low, which means I can still afford it, and it’s a solid producer, year after year. What’s not to like?

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ. Thanks for dropping by! I love your comments – what new wine (or old favorite) have you enjoyed recently?

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!


Thanksgiving Wine – Rose´? Sparkling?

Thanksgiving Wine – Rose´? Sparkling?

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. This is especially true around holiday time, where you may be pouring wine for guests. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10 unless noted otherwise.

Cupcake Vineyards photo of Prosecco bottleCupcake Vineyards Prosecco Product of Italy Alcohol, 11% by Volume Regularly $11.99 at Vons, on sale now for $8.99

On The Label: “This bright sparkler,  made in Northern Italy from 100% Prosecco is the perfect accompaniment for any occasion. It offers a lively, fruity nose of peaches and nectarines which persist to the palate with soft, creamy citrus accents that finish with a gratifying burst. Enjoy with melon wrapped in Prosciutto, a Gorgonzola crostini, or fettucini Alfredo.”  www.cupcakevineyards.com

My Take: Very light. Lightly sweet. Not overwhelmingly bubble-y. But the price is good, the brand name may impress, and the alcohol content is low enough that it’s a good choice for pre-meal snacking.

Cupcake Vineyards brought this out very recently, for the holiday season I imagine. I have a hit or miss record with Cupcake, but I couldn’t resist trying this. Now that I have, I’m not sure I’ll rush back to pick up another bottle, but it is definitely a light sparkler that could work in many social situations.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~

Sofia Rose´ Monterey County 2011 Francis Coppola Alcohol 12.5% by Volume; price, $9.99 at Vons

On The Label: Mr. Coppola knows when to let a picture (or a wine) tell the story. There isSofia Rose wine no annoying pronouncements on the label. Thank you, Mr. Coppola!

My Take: I really enjoyed this wine. Fresh, crisp, clean and yet with a nice flavor, I could definitely see pairing this with turkey at Thanksgiving. Or if you wish, go ahead and serve this as a before-dinner wine with the appetizers. As a gift, it’s unusual bottle and beautiful color will definitely get you noticed. I will say, please check out pricing. Some places carry this wine for $20; others, like Total Wine and More, charge $9.85.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ and isn’t that a pretty color?

I did an in-depth posting on sparkling wines last year, so check out this post here, from December 30th. For some more Rose´s, look here.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please remember, whichever wine you choose, it’s the people you gather together that make the holiday, not the beverage, or the food, or the weather. Hold family and friends close, for they are damned difficult to replace.

I’ll be doing one more posting on red wines prior to Thanksgiving. In the meantime, enjoy the moment!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depends upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!




Goats In Villages Wine. No, Really.

Goats In Villages Wine. No, Really.

It’s Friday, YAY! Once again I’m filling you in on wines that are under $10 at your local grocery stores. Okay, to be honest, they’re MY local grocery stores – but I’m pretty sure they’re generic enough that you’ll be able to find the wines wherever you may be (at least, if you’re in the U.S.) Today I step outside of the West Coast of the United States, however, and venture abroad. But first…

To Swirl, or Not to Swirl? Lettie Teague fills you in on the art of the swirl – she’s got a video and everything!  Go here for more info.  Now…on to the wine!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico, 2008 Product of Italy Alcohol, 13.%% by Volume. Under $10 (according to my husband)

On the Label: “In 1124, Castello di Gabbiano was extablished in the heart of the renowned Chianti Classico region. During the Middle Ages, a courageous Italian knight, Il Cavaliere, dedicated himself to protecting our castle and vineyards. His code of honor came to embody our philosophy that the finest things in life deserve our fiercest commitment – estate vineyards, Old World traditions, and the enjoyment of robust wines. Our Gabbiano Chianti Classico has rich flavors of berry and pepper. Salute.”

My Take: I’m pretty sure I’ve reviewed Gabbiano before, but that I guess doesn’t matter. This is a lovely wine, and as advertised is rich with berry and that peppery taste I adore. We had it with parmesan mustard chicken, and it was a delightful accompaniment. It won’t rock anyone’s world, but it’s a solid player in the red wine department.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ 

Picton Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 Product of New Zealand Alcohol 13.0% by volume; $7.99 at Trader Joe’s. (This was a screwtop bottle.)

On the Label: This wine is made from grapes grown in Marlborough and Nelson. Picton Bay Pinot Noir is fresh with delicious red fruit flavours, enticing spicy aromas and a smooth, fine texture. Drink now or cellar until 2015.

My Take: I was thrilled to find a red from New Zealand, and surprised to see it was a 2011. All the latest reds in the States have been 2010s, so I was a bit worried about drinking this obviously very young wine. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. The wine was smooth – young, yes, but eminently drinkable right now. I may have to put a couple bottles aside and see how they taste a year from now…except, you know. I’ll never manage to hang onto them that long!

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~  especially at this price!

Goats in Villages Shiraz Pinotage 2008  The Goats Do Roam Wine Company, South Africa Alcohol 14% by Volume  $7.99 at Trader Joe’s. (Yes, that’s a screwtop.)

On the Label: “Africa has a way of bringing out the best in people. With its magnitude and raw beauty, and the intensity of day to day living, Africa draws on one’s deepest spiritual resources. Rebecca and Gary Mink moved from the United States to the wilds of the Caprivi in Northern Namibia, where they founded the Children of Zion Village to care for children orphaned by AIDS. Their immense courage and spirit however, could not fully offset their limited financial resources, and they were soon overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. An urgent appeal was sent for goats – and immediately a group of young does and bucks from our Goats do Roam herd volunteered, rushing north to supply our nutritious milk and gentle company. Our caprine colleagues who stayed behind in the Western Cape have carefully selected the finest grapes from which to make this complex wine. Rich, spicy Shiraz and ripe, robust Pinotage are carefully blended to emphasize the fruit, whilst judicious oaking adds elegance and structure, befitting the noble gesture made by the Goats who roam in African Villages. Enjoy this wine with barbecued meats and full flavored dishes.”

My Take: Wow, what a story! We had it with our corned beef on St. Patty’s day; and the wine was surprisingly superb. When my hubby tasted it (without knowing its name or where it had been made), he said there was something unusual – earthy, maybe  – about the wine, and he quite liked it. I did, too – and am planning on going back and getting more.

My Rating: ~ Very Drinkable ~ I mean, come on. When was the last time you consumed anything from South Africa?!!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

My award-winning novel, Demon Soul, is available for the Kindle and the Nook! Have you read it yet?  If you’ve read it, have you reviewed it on Amazon?

My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!




Primitivo – in Wine and Life

Primitivo – in Wine and Life

While I was at Cypher a couple of weekends ago, the sexy ex-computer-geek-turned-tasting-room-guru T, let me in on the secret of Primitivo. Primitivo is a grape identical to Zinfandel and grown mostly in Italy, Argentina, and Chile.

Bells went off in my head. No WONDER I was drawn to Primitivo! I’d found it at Fresh & Easy, for $5.99 a bottle, and couldn’t understand how I could so love that wine. But it was hiding its true colors; and now that I know it’s a Zinfandel by another name, I’m SO on board. (Of course, the last time I went to Fresh & Easy, they didn’t have Primitivo any longer. Sigh.)

Tuesday night at Casa Ashworth, the Santa Ana winds blew. Hard. They blew hard enough to force our double front doors open wide; they blew hard enough to take lots of white picket fencing off my front fence, leaving an already-worn fence looking like an old woman’s mouth with teeth missing. The winds blew so hard, that it toppled – and split – a 30+ year old tree, narrowly missing landing on the corner of my bedroom. The power went out. I was late to work, disoriented by the winds I could hear in my sleep, and grumpy from lack of coffee.

Landscape with Windblown Trees, by Vincent Van Gogh

That afternoon, with the power still out, I found true parafin lamp oil (the other stuff is crap, don’t buy it unless it says PARAFIN lamp oil) and some new wicks for our many oil lamps. My boss, sensing my uneasiness, let me go while it was still light out, so the hubby and I could get our act together before darkness descended.

Yes, we have battery lanterns. But which would you rather gather around – the mellow yellow light of an oil lamp, or the harsh, blue light of a flourescent camping light? Yeah, us too.

By the time darkness descended, I was happily puttering about in the kitchen with three lamps burning so I could see what I was chopping, what was going into the pot on the stove, and what I needed out of the fridge. (Thank goodness for gas stoves!) I made soup from leftover veggies in the fridge, plus the rest of a Costco chicken.  For those who want to know, I sipped on the last of a bottle of La Gioiosia Pinot Grigio ($7.99 a bottle at Fresh & Easy, tiny bubbles but it’s NOT a prosecco), and we opened a bottle of Rose from Adelaida  to go with the soup – and that was yummy!

But there was the sense of primitivo about our night. Every room I went into, I flipped on the light – only to remember, too late. We made sure we had flashlights with fresh batteries easily available (our family’s prediliction lately is for headlamps – keeps your hands free), we charged our phones in our cars as we drove during the day, and used them as our morning alarms. It was nice, if slightly surreal. It wasn’t cold and we had water and gas; we weren’t that disabled by lack of electricity (except the hubby and the youngest didn’t get their NaNo words in, and grumped about it all night).

To revel in the winds and the darkness, at about ten I went outside. The winds had died to mere puffs of air; the stars were half-obscured by the bright quarter-moon.  And the silence I’d been expecting?

Filled with the hum of generators. I much preferred my lamps.

Next week I promise I’ll get a wine blog together – this week, life’s been kinda crazy!

~ Cheers – and remember to Drink Responsibly! ~